Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday December 12, 2012
 

 

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By Dave Dykes                                                                            CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

This week we again take a look at several New England short track history-makers, many of-which are members of the prestigious New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. Special thanks go out to our friends, longtime car owner Jarb Beaudoin and Tony Mordino Jr. for making it possible for us to feature some of the terrific shots from Jarb’s personal racing scrapbook. Lastly, congratulations to our pal Billy Greco (himself a Hall of Famer), on the success of his NEAR Hall of Fame fundraising event held last-weekend in West Haven, CT. - a great time was had by all! As-always, Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com
 

A Special Thanks From Billy Greco To All That Attended His NEAR Hall Of Fame Fundraiser On Saturday Evening, December 8th

New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Billy Greco would like to express his sincere appreciation to those that attended his recent NEAR Hall of Fame Movie Party Fundraiser in West Haven.
“I just want to sincerely thank everyone that attended our HOF Fundraiser last Saturday evening,” Billy stated Sunday. “It’s great to see how-much support we got, and it goes to prove that the Hall of Fame means a great deal to people. It turned out really-well, and people had great-time. I want each & every person that attended, and also everyone involved in making the event a reality, to know that I personally appreciated it very-much.”

Yup, More New England Short Track Heroes….

We really like this coupe-era image of New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, the late Tony Mordino Sr. from the former Riverside Park Speedway in Massachusetts where he was a winner during the track’s UNITED heyday (certainly not an easy feat!). The car is the famous “Jarbs 500” wrenched by celebrated New England car owner Jarb Beaudoin. Thanks to the Mordino family I was introduced to Jarb at Billy Greco’s recent NEAR Fundraising event, which was a pleasure. One can only imagine the amount of wins that both Mordino and Beaudoin recorded during their long, successful careers. (Beaudoin Collection, Courtesy Tony Mordino Jr.).   

And here’s another New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, the late Dick Dixon celebrating a victory in another of Jarb Beaudoin’s many creations. Looking at the list of drivers that wheeled the mighty #500’s over the years is indeed, impressive. That’s Jarb on the left next to Dixon. Unfortunately, we’re not-sure of the identity of the flagger. At this point Jarb’s cars were Hudson-powered, once a powerful form of motivation in New England short track racing. Sadly, Dixon lost his life in a crash at the Thompson Speedway in 1967 while still in the prime of his career.  (Beaudoin Collection, Courtesy Tony Mordino Jr.)

Here’s one-more from the Beaudoin archives. That’s none-other than our pal, Hall of Famer Billy “Gramps” Greco sharing victory lane with Jarb at one of the great UNITED modified shows that used to be held every year at the expansive track on the grounds of the “Big E” in Springfield, Massachusetts. To win one of these events was indeed, an accomplishment; all of the regions top teams competed in these races... (Beaudoin Collection, Courtesy Tony Mordino Jr.).

It seems that no-matter how much time and effort one puts into researching the history of short track racing in our region, you’re bound to come up with some dead ends. I’d read about this driver in several vintage issues of Speedway News from my files and knew that he’d won at a variety of eastern tracks, but just couldn’t come-up with much information on his career. From our friend Bill Ladabouche’s excellent Catamount Stadium website www.catamountstadium.com comes the following; Schenectady, New York's Link Pettit, whose team hailed from Great Barrington, Massachusetts, looked more like a high school librarian than a stock car driver. Opinions of him range from Lebanon Valley immortal to vastly over-rated. I did meet Link at a breakfast gathering in Watervliet in July of 2007, and I found him to be a fine man - so I am going to go with the Valley legend label.” One thing we know for-sure is that Link scored a pair of Riverside Park feature victories on 09/10/1955 and 04/05/1958. We believe this shot to be from his ’55 triumph. (Shany Photo).

I just really treasure this Riverside Park victory lane shot. It’s perhaps because it features Billy Greco, who was truly one of the big heroes of my youth and a huge reason why I became so fixated on the sport at an early age. A New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, he was an absolute master of the short oval, honing his skills at tight little joints like the late West Haven Speedway and the old 1/5-miler at Riverside Park. A darling of the old Harvey Tattersall-led UNITED circuit (once the most influential sanctioning group in New England); in later-years he also became a winner at the ultra-competitive Danbury Fair Racarena. The personable Greco is as popular today as he ever-was, and can really enlighten you on the history of the sport. Win, lose, or draw, Billy was always there for the fans until the last autograph was signed – that makes a lasting impression on a race-crazed kid. (Shany Photo).

Captured here at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway, Sal “Dee” Delucia remains one of the most fondly-remembered racers of his era. His relatively brief but spectacular career stalled by serious racing-related injuries, had longevity been in the cards, he would have undoubtedly accomplished even more. Dee won-over a legion of fans undoubtedly fueled by his no-nonsense drives to the front during what many railbirds consider the most-competitive period in New England modified racing history. Winner of the 1965 Waterford Speedbowl Modified title, this guy was truly one tough competitor! (Photographer Unknown).  

This shot has an interesting story. At Billy Greco’s recent NEAR fundraiser, I‘d bought-along a few albums of vintage shots for attendees to enjoy. Hall of Famer and friend Dennis Zimmerman found them pretty-interesting, and was savoring the memories when he came-upon this one. The conversation went something like this; “Dave, do you know who this-is?” I replied “Sorry Dennis, I’ve not been able to identify the poor guy in that crash.” He then says, “Guess what – it’s me!” Here’s the full-story as told by Denny himself; “That happened at Riverside Park on a Saturday night 1957 or 58, not-sure which. I ran over Eddie Flemke Sr.’s wheel, took a hard tumble, and spent the night and the next day in the hospital. Guess what? I wound up in a room with Ed Patnode. He was in for a hernia operation, so at-least we had a lot to talk-about. I had to thank the late Johnny Georgidas for picking up the pieces and towing it home for me (while I was in the crash house). No easy-job, because in those days we flat-towed to the race track.” Eddie felt so bad, at this point he took me under his wing and became my mentor. While running down south as an "Eastern Bandit" he won track champion at Southside Speedway, Old Dominian Spedway in Virginia and Marlboro Speedway in Maryland beside being the Virginia State Modified Championship.   Of-course, from these humble beginnings Dennis went-on to compete at the Indianapolis 500, notching Rookie of the Year honors in 1971. In-between he was a charter member of the famed “Eastern Bandits” led by fellow Hall of Famer, the late Eddie Flemke Sr. Coming out of retirement a few seasons-ago, he currently competes in the USAC Dirt Midget Association. Denny took his place in the HOF in 2001. (Shany Photo).  

Captured here following a feature victory on the old 1/5-miler at Riverside Park, Jerry Humiston was one of the premier-players within Harvey Tattersall’s United Racing Club. Three-times a track champion (1954, 59, and 61), he raced at The Park’ during what many consider the tracks most-competitive era. Humiston’s prominent place in the history of the much-missed oval is rightly-deserved. Another New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer, he took his place among our regions best earlier this year. (Shany Photo).

Another race night at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl, and another feature victory for the Congdon team and their driver, the late Dick Beauregard (third from left). Dick passed-away last year at age-85, but not before leaving a huge impression on fans during the shoreline oval’s formative years. In a career that spanned only a decade, this racer managed to accomplish more than most drivers spending twice-as-much time behind the wheel. Starting in 1952, he went-on to score a combined-total of sixty-two victories in Modified & Non-Ford competition along with two track titles before hanging-up his helmet and relocating to the West Coast. Dick was named as one of the Speedbowl’s “All-Time 50-Favorite Drivers” when the track celebrated its half-century mark in 1991. (Shany Photo).

Charlie Centinaro was one of the real movers & shakers on Harvey Tattersall’s United circuit. Starting his stellar career at Connecticut’s West Haven Speedway, he later became a top-shoe at the much-missed Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Mass as seen here. First scoring in 1969, “Mr. Centinaro” racked-up a total of 5-feature wins at The Park’, his final visit to victory lane coming on the evening of June 2, 1973. (Shany Photo).  

BONUS SHOT: New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer the late Buddy Krebs (second from right), scored an astounding 43 feature victories at Massachusetts’ former Riverside Park Speedway, placing him third on the all-time winners list behind fellow Hall of Famers Reggie Ruggiero with 93, and Billy Greco with 57. Like all winning drivers, he had great people turning the wrenches. Captured here sharing victory lane at The Park’ with his driver is Jim Jorgensen (third from left), one of the best mechanical minds in the history of the sport. From here, Hall of Famer Jorgensen went to Indy; it was quite a ride. For more on Jim’s amazing career, pick-up a copy of “Swamp Yankee: The Racing Life of Jim Jorgensen,” by our friend Walt Scadden. Just a great book, it’s available at Lew Boyd’s www.coastal181.com Tell em’ Dave Dykes sent you! (Shany Photo).

That's it for this week. Email me at:

Comments

Sonny O said:

Denny Zimmermen also ran in the Plainville Stadium Reunion go Kart race and still can get around a race track even with a go Kart!

ted grey said:

HI DAVE, I BELIEVE THE COUPE IN THE BACKROUND OF THE DICK BEAUREGARD PICTURE IS BILL CONGDON'S "76". THANKS FOR ALL THAT YOU DO FOR NEW ENGLAND RACING HISTORY.

Don Macrino said:

Dave, great job again. Reading this column, is like taking a cigarette break when
Iused to smoke! By the way,I have one of Danny Zimmerman's early Goodyear Firesuits that was given to me by Johnny Kay.
I'd love to get it back to him.

tony mordino said:

Dave,
Great seeing you guys the other night at Billy's Party. Thanks for your efforts on this page - again.
Tony M

Eric Marenghi said:

Charlie Centinaro also drove the Hudson version of Jarb's 500. Used to run at Riverside in the Jalopy (Sportsman) division Tuesday night, a show that featured a lot of the great West Haven guys.

Denny Zimmerman said:

Don Macrino, Thanks I would love to have it back and I would then donate it to the new museum they are building in New Hampshire. I have already promised some other stuff to them. Call me 860-986-3817 or email denzimm@aol,com.

Mike Ray said:

Another great week!Thank you David and Tom.

Dave Dykes said:

Guys, thanks for all of the nice comments; it really makes doing "RTT" every-week a pleasure. And Don, I usually see Denny every month at the NEAR meetings; let me know if you need me to deliver that firesuit to him.

Al Murray said:

Link Pettit ran well at Empire Raceway in the RU21. Also saw him in the same car on the dirt at Fonda. He ran at Pinebowl and probaly at Burden Lake and Stateline.
Steven Humphrey said:

Those were the days. It's all money now, not as much fun.

Denny Z. said:

Dave, The starter in the picture with Dixon is Al Parrent (not sure of the spelling of his last name) long time Riverside Park starter. In that picture he looks like he choked on a bug or something. He is the same guy in the picture with Buddy.

 
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